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Formula 1

Mercedes request to review Hamilton Verstappen incident rejected

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Mercedes’ petition to get the Brazilian Grand Prix incident between Formula 1 title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton reviewed has been rejected.

The Sao Paulo GP stewards reconvened virtually on Thursday evening in Qatar to hear from Mercedes and Red Bull representatives after Mercedes invoked the right of review process.

Mercedes wanted the stewards to reassess the Turn 4 incident between the two title rivals after Verstappen carried too much speed into the corner and went off-track, with Hamilton on his outside and taking to the run-off as well.

Thursday’s hearing took place over several hours, with a brief interlude, and was then adjourned until Friday.

The panel’s conclusion was that the forward-facing onboard camera angle from Verstappen’s car that had not been available to the stewards live during the Interlagos race was “relevant but not significant”.

That outcome means there will be no change to the Brazil result in which Verstappen finished second behind the Mercedes of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had earlier on Friday insisted that his squad wasn’t necessarily expecting the review bid to be successful and was pursuing a point of principle – suggesting that if the result stood it would give a driver being overtaken on the outside a licence to let their car run wide to take their opponent off the track.

“Completely expected,” said Wolff when the stewards’ decision was put to him.

“We wanted to trigger a discussion around it because probably it will be a theme in the next few races and that objective is achieved.

“We didn’t really think it would go any further.”

Wolff’s Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner called it “obviously the right decision because it would open Pandora’s Box regarding a lot of other incidents that happened at that race”.

The stewards accepted that the footage that formed the basis of Mercedes’ review request was worthy of discussion but also questioned whether this was an appropriate use of the Right to Review system.

“The stewards do not sit passively during a race and did not do so in this case,” said the decision.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Brazilian Grand Prix Race Day Sao Paulo, Brazil

“By the time the race director asked the stewards for their view and stated that it was going to be ‘noted’ on the timing screens, they were already looking at the available footage.

“The subsequent discretionary decision of the stewards not to proceed with a formal investigation is the motor racing equivalent of ‘play on’ in other sports.

“There will always be some angles of video footage, because of limits in both technology and bandwidth, that are unavailable at the time.

“Whether or not stewards’ decisions are considered to be right or wrong, and just as with referees’ decisions in soccer, it does not seem desirable to be able to review any or all such in‐race discretionary decisions up to two weeks after the fact and the stewards therefore seriously doubt that the intent of the Right of Review in the ISC is to enable competitors to seek a review of such discretionary decisions that do not follow on from a formal inquiry by the stewards and do not result in a published document.”

But they did acknowledge the value of the forward-facing Verstappen camera in this instance.

“It was the only footage that allowed the overall position of the cars, the steering inputs of the driver of car 33 [Verstappen], the heading of the cars and the proximity of the cars to be analysed together,” said their report.

“While the stewards often have to make a decision with a limited set of facts, it is true that in making their review, the front-facing camera was one of the angles that the stewards looked for.

“The footage is a direct view of the incident, is not extraneous and is, therefore, in the stewards’ opinion relevant.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Spielberg, Austria

Mercedes had cited the decision to give Hamilton a last-minute grid penalty at the 2020 Austrian GP (pictured above) when a yellow-flag infringement was uncovered by a 360-degree camera angle not available live.

But the stewards argued that in that instance the new angle had revealed something substantially different to the previous footage and that this was not the case this time.

“Whether this footage is ‘significant’ is really a question of whether or not it is likely to change the initial decision of the stewards.

“In the pertinent example brought forward by the competitor from Austria in 2020, none of the footage available and viewed at the time of the decision, showed a yellow flag visible to the driver (Lewis Hamilton).

“However, the new and previously unavailable 360-degree camera footage, which was downloaded the next day, clearly showed that the yellow flag was visible from the car and the driver was penalised for failing to slow down.

“In that case, the footage absolutely changed the decision of the stewards and was thus significant.”

But they felt the rear-facing camera and helicopter view used for the Brazil decision had offered the same information as the forward view.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Brazilian Grand Prix Race Day Sao Paulo, Brazil

“The stewards determine that the footage shows nothing exceptional that is particularly different from the other angles that were available to them at the time, or that particularly changes their decision that was based on the originally available footage,” they said.

“Unlike the 2020 Austria case, in the judgement of the stewards, there is nothing in the footage that fundamentally changes the facts.

“Nor even, does this show anything that wasn’t considered by the stewards at the time.

“Thus, the stewards determine that the footage, here, is not ‘significant’.”

Verstappen leads Hamilton by 14 points in the drivers’ championship while Mercedes has an 11-point lead in the constructors’ standings with three races remaining.

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